Colombo: Resolute batting by Sri Lanka and at least three missed chances in the field thwarted England on the fourth day of the second Test in Colombo on Friday. (Agencies)
Sri Lanka, trailing by 185 runs, lost the openers as they took their second innings total from the overnight 4-0 to 84/2 by lunch on the slow wicket at the P. Sara Oval.
Tillakaratne Dilshan was unbeaten on 25 and Kumar Sangakkara was on eight, with the hosts still 101 runs behind with eight wickets in hand.
Sangakkara, who was dismissed first ball in two of the three previous innings in the series, was lucky not to be run out on five when he nearly collided mid-pitch with Dilshan.
England, beaten by 75 runs in the first Test in Galle, need a win to level the short two-match series and retain their world number one Test ranking.
Lahiru Thirimanne and nightwatchman Dhammika Prasad, who saw off the lone over on Thursday evening, put on 23 for the first wicket before James Anderson struck the first blow.
Left-handed Thirimanne failed to take advantage of a missed stumping off Graeme Swann and edged Anderson to Andrew Strauss at first slip after making 11.
Prasad, a tailender who averaged 19.20 in his previous nine Tests, defied the England attack for 87 minutes and even helped himself to five boundaries.
He finally fell for 34 when an ambitious hook shot off Steven Finn landed safely in the hands of Tim Bresnan at deep square-leg.
Prasad was dropped twice in one Swann over, as wicket-keeper Matt Prior failed to glove a thick edge and Finn floored a waist-high catch at mid-off.
Colombo: Resolute batting by Sri Lanka and at least three missed chances in the field thwarted England on the fourth day of the second Test in Colombo on Friday.